Yep, it’s finally here, gorgeous, unpredictable spring. Feast on asparagus, artichokes, radishes, berries, dandelion and chickweed. Not sure about those last two? Expand your epicurean borders and cross to the wild side. Check out the Wild Foods Workshop below.
Time to clean out and prepare your garden beds. Pack away all your long johns and dig out those spring pastels. Motivated to do some spring cleaning? Recipe for a DIY natural cleanser below.
Time for longer, warmer days and the sweetness of spring. I’ll be heading out for my annual spring road trip so the next newsletter will be in June.
Cooks Herb Garden
Denver Botanic Gardens, Thursday, April 14, 6pm – 8pm, $42 member; $47non-member, info and registration
Discover the numerous health and taste benefits of growing your own herbs! Learn how to grow, harvest and use herbs as we explore seven of the most popular culinary herbs including marjoram, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, chives and basil. We’ll make an all-purpose, garden seasoning blend and enjoy a gourmet herbal dinner. Take home an herb seasoning blend and an extensive handout with recipes and growing instructions. Add nutrition, taste and culinary sparkle with fresh herbs!
Herbal Home and Garden Workshop
Denver Botanic Gardens, Saturday, May 21, 9:30-12:30, $64 member, $69 non-member, info and registration
A fun and creative class to learn about all the ways you can use these easy to grow, fragrant plants to enrich your home and lifestyle. Plant a garden full of plants that do double duty in the kitchen, medicine cabinet, spa and cleaning cupboard.
We’ll take a tour of the herb garden and cover the planting, growing and harvesting of top, easy to grow herbs. Discover culinary teas and seasoning blends, herbal scrubs and body and bath care, first aid and green cleaning. We’ll have an herbal cooking class and lunch featuring Roasted Tomato Gazpacho with Parmesan Crisps. Herbed Chicken Salad with Green Goddess Dressing and Rosemary Rhubarb Cobbler.
From an herbal ingredient buffet, make and take home your own herbal seasoning blend, tasty tea blend and infused vinegar, exfoliating body scrub, soothing lip balm and all-purpose cleaner. Discover the fascinating world of herbs! Lunch, extensive handout with growing instructions, product samples and recipes included. Experience the joy of an herbal home!
Wild Foods Gourmet
Denver Botanic Gardens, Friday, May 13, 5:30-8:30pm, $52 members, $56 non-members, info and registration
Explore the fascinating world of wild edibles. We’ll begin with an herb walk, identifying local wild edibles. Discover the optimum nutrition and delicious tastes provided by plants you usually weed and toss in the compost pile.
Back in the kitchen we’ll prepare a delicious meal using common wild plants, including nettle, chickweed, dandelion, lambs quarters and more. Learn how to make conifer needle vodka and enjoy a cocktail as we prepare an appetizer, fresh greens salad, a savory cream soup, and a delicious pesto for our wild foods pasta. Explore all the ways you can add wild edibles to your current recipes to boost nutrition and flavor. Recipes, cocktail and meal included. Discover the fun and benefits of eating on the wild side!
Things to Do
Are you getting garden fever? Check out the multitude of garden classes at the Denver Botanic Gardens and local garden centers and nurseries including O’Tooles, Tagawa, Paulino’s, Echtors and Jareds. Several are free.
The kids might enjoy the Tulip, Fairy and Elf Parade on the Pearl St. Mall on Sunday, April 3. info here
Taste of Vail is this weekend. Food, wine and frolic. info here For another culinary adventure try the Taste of Pearl in Boulder on April 17. $65 general, $75 VIP ticket. Great wine and food on the pedestrian mall. info here
Earth Day is Friday, April 22. Plant a tree; take a class, volunteer, check out a festival. Earth Day Denver has all kinds of things to explore.
Go enjoy some blood tests at 9 Health Fair this month. See how you’re holding up for a very reasonable fee. www.9healthfair.org
Free days this month include;
Denver Art Museum – April 2 and 24
Denver Botanic Gardens –April 3, York St, April 5, Chatfield Farms
Denver Museum of Nature and Science – April 10 and 23
Hudson Gardens – April 25
The crucial item for a successful garden? Soil. I add compost to the garden beds every spring and fall. Check out www.dug.org for free composting classes. No space for a garden? DUG also has garden plots for rent.
Now is the time to divide your overgrown perennials and get all those weed seedlings out. Go on an herb walk to find out which ones make a tasty addition to dinner.
I like a garden that features fragrance, herbs, veggies, edible and cut flowers for the house. Drought tolerance, long bloom and easy maintenance are also essential. Check out www.ext.colostate.edu for pages of information on the best choices for gardening in Colorado. Curb your enthusiasm and don’t plant more than you are willing to maintain in the dog days of August.
You can put in your cool weather crops now including kale, Swiss chard, spinach, salad greens, peas, onion sets, strawberries and more. If you have seed starts from inside, make sure your plants are hardened off before planting out in the unpredictable spring weather. Put out some pansies and primrose to compliment your spring bulbs. Cut back grasses, roses, perennials and dead wood in shrubs. Resist the urge to buy tender plants too early. If a late frost doesn’t kill them, it will definitely stunt them. Wait until Mother’s Day at the earliest to put out your tender annuals.
Ready to get the winter cobwebs out? Fill up some boxes with all that stuff you have accumulated and never used and recycle it at the local thrift store. For inspiration read “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo.
Cleaning solutions are some of the most toxic ingredients in our home. Consider switching to a natural brand like 7th Generation or make your own. Here is my favorite all-purpose spray cleanser.
- 1 cup liquid soap blend, I like Dr. Bonners or Meyers Clean Day
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- ¼ tsp. tea tree or eucalyptus essential oil
- ¼ cup witch hazel or rubbing alcohol.
Shake together in a spray bottle. Add water if it’s too thick.
For use anywhere you would use 409.
Herb of the Month – Chives
Chives, Allium schoenoprasum, are an easy to grow, perennial plant that offers taste, edible flowers, a long season and low maintenance. They have a mild onion taste that works well for eggs, meat and cheese dishes, vegetables, basically anywhere you would use onions. The flowers make a delightful vinegar or garnish. I like to hang the flowers upside down and store them in glass when dry, using them as a beautiful floral garnish over winter.
When harvesting chives, which resemble a clump of grass when not in bloom, cut from the bottom, taking the whole stalk. It will regrow. Pick a few stalks, fold them over each other and snip the ends for a garnish over cooked veggies, egg dishes, cheese or whatever else you’re serving. Use them at the end of the cooking process to avoid a soggy seasoning.
You can pull up your plants in the spring, digging up the whole clump, divide into sections and replant to increase your yield. Chives like sun or part shade, and moderate water.
- 20 chive leaves
- 1 bunch parsley
- 1 cup olive oil
Put all ingredients in blender and process until you come up with beautiful deep green oil. Use as you would olive oil but store in the refrigerator.
This month we’ll feature succulent strawberries. When shopping for strawberries look for dry, firm, ripe red berries. Berries do not ripen once picked, so avoid the white ones. Shake the box, the berries should move freely. If they don’t, you may have a rotten one. Check the bottom of the box for fruit stains; try to get one without them. Look for organic berries grown in the US. And wash your berries right before you are going to use them unless you are planning to make jam. Rinsing makes them soggy.
Super Easy Fresh Strawberry Pie
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 tbs cornstarch
- 1/2 small package strawberry gelatin/jello
- 1 cup water
- 2 pints strawberries, hulled (green and hard stem end removed)
- 1 9″ baked pie shell
Cook sugar, cornstarch, jello and water in saucepan until thick. Cool.
Place whole berries, stem side down, in cool, baked pie shell. Pour sauce over berries and refrigerate. Serve with fresh whipped cream and garnish with mint and/or strawberries.
Strawberry Parfaits – serves 4
Perfect for brunch or a light dessert.
- 1 pint fresh strawberries, cleaned, hulled and sliced
- 2 cups vanilla yogurt (I make my own by adding honey and a dash of vanilla to plain yogurt and stirring well, a lot less sugar)
- Bananas, kiwi, other berries or fruit of choice.
Layer fruit and yogurt in wine or champagne classes, top with a mint leaf if you have it, and a swirl of honey.
Baby Greens Salad with Strawberries, Goat Cheese, and Pine Nuts – serves 4
The key to this, and all salads, is to add whatever you like and have on hand. I usually take whatever I have hanging around in the produce drawer and cut or shave it into small pieces. Look for different colors and textures and plate it as opposed to tossing it all in a bowl. Much more appealing.
- 4 cups baby greens of choice; I like arugula, nice taste contrast to the sweet berries.
- 1 cup sliced strawberries, you can use any berries you like.
- ½ cup toasted pine nuts, or toasted cashews, pecans, etc.
- 1 avocado, sliced
- ½ cup crumbled goat, blue, Roquefort or shaved Asiago cheese
You can also add shaved carrots or beets, radishes, pea pods or any raw veggies that strike your fancy.
Sesame orange dressing, recipe follows.
Toss baby greens with salad dressing, put onto individual plates. Top with berries of your choice, cheese, avocados, extra veggies and nuts. Drizzle the toppings lightly with the dressing and enjoy. Beautiful and delicious.
Toasted Pine Nuts – put on cookie sheet or pie tray and toast until light brown in 350 oven. About 5-7 minutes.
Sesame Orange Dressing
- 3 tbs orange juice concentrate
- 11/2 tbs soy sauce
- 1 tbs herb or rice wine vinegar
- 2 tbs toasted sesame oil
- salt, pepper and sugar or honey to taste.
shake well in a glass covered jar or bottle.
Pasta with Wild Greens
As an herbalist I love using wild greens. Spring is a great time to harvest the tender, young weeds out of your garden. Very high in nutrition, they have been used for eons to provide tasty meals and garnishes. Great in smoothies and juiced. Know your plant, not everything is edible and some plants are highly toxic. Take a class (see above) or schedule a private herb walk. email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 3 cups cooked drained pasta of your choice
- 2 tbs. olive oil
- 2-3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
- 4 shallots or green onions, minced
- 3 cups young wild greens, lambs quarters, young dandelion leaves, chickweed and/or spinach and kale.
- ½ cup sun dried tomatoes in oil; you could also use cherry tomatoes
- 1/3 cup toasted walnuts or pine nuts
- ½ cup grated parmesan or asiago cheese
- Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, thyme and fresh basil to taste.
- You can also add cooked chicken or seafood.
Cook garlic, shallots in olive oil until softened, add greens and cook until wilted. Add pasta, tomatoes, nuts, and seasonings and heat through. Add more oil or water if needed. Serve topped with cheese. Generously serves 2-3.